South Carolinians and the country are talking about Governor Mark Sanford and his position on the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act." The President and Congress want that money to provide immediate economic stimulation. The governor says he's focused on paying off existing debt. Wednesday morning at the statehouse, Sanford told a packed room taking all the stimulus money would leave state taxpayers with a big bill; nearly $1.2 billion. Sanford says during these tough economic times, eliminating state debt should be the top priority.
"I spent a lot of time thinking about this," said Governor Mark Sanford.
The governor says 'Thanks, but No Thanks' to the federal government concerning most of the stimulus package dollars.
"We don't think it's a good idea to spend money we don't have at a personal level, at state government level or a federal level," said Sanford.
Sanford is among the most vocal critics of the federal stimulus package. And he's following through on his promise to reject most of the money. Sanford says he's willing to accept things, on his term. Sanford wants the White House to grant a wavier allowing South Carolina to use $700 million in stimulus money, to pay down state debt.
"We think that would be a better use of the money for the stronger financial footing," said Sanford.
Critics say that would not stimulate the economy, as the President and Congress intend.
"The easiest thing would be for me to take the money and let someone else deal with it in 24-months," said Sanford. "But I don't think that would be the proper thing to do."
If the Obama Administration rejects Governor Sanford's request on how to use the money, Sanford says he'll ask the state not to accept the stimulus funds.